On Christ’s birthday, I get the gift!

Posted: 28/12/2011 in God
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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year…” goes the old Christmas song, a time of celebrating presents, food and a public holiday because that’s what Christmas is all about isn’t it, or is it? I grieved Christmas this year because of what I see and how I have participated in that. In the western world Christmas is dominated by consumerism and a lust for self pleasure; more, more and more. The decorations are out in the shops in October, shelf after shelf is overflowing with pointless tizz! The shops are over crowded with rude and impatient shoppers loading trolley after trolley with useless items. We want more than we can store; we want to outdo the Jones’s without even knowing what the Jones’s have! Food is consumed in such great quantities that many people complain about the weight they put on over Christmas. Bottle shops are well stocked with alcohol for the long weekend of celebration (celebrating what…?). Children have their every toy want and desire satisfied. Kids open one present, glance at it briefly and look around for the next one and at the end of it all, they leave them in a pile and go and play, the presents already forgotten. What are we teaching our kids? What have we become?

Many people, if asked, would be unable to explain why Christmas is celebrated; is it fable or a pagan tradition? Is it a government organised end of year party? Is it about the rather overweight timeless man in a red suit? Is it about a baby born in some far away land for reasons we don’t really know? Sadly even, for many Christians the true meaning has lost meaning. Jesus has become only a baby for a season! But he is so much more than that. 2000 years ago in an obscure little Palestinian town, a baby was born. The birth of this child was a fullfillment of the promise of God, that a saviour of the world would come to Jews and gentiles alike (Isaiah 9). Astrologers, likely pertaining to a Persian religion, not only travelled hundreds of miles to see this child, but worshiped him, a baby born of Hebrew parents. A multitude of angels appeared in the sky singing God’s glory at the birth of this baby. Shepherds, people of low social status in those days, were chosen to be the ones to not only visit the baby but be the ones to spread the word of his birth around town (Luke 2:17). What was so amazing about Jesus, so amazing in fact that our calendar counts the years from the time of his birth?

John 3:16-17 says “This is how much God loved the world: He gave his Son, his one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending his Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again. Anyone who trusts in him is acquitted; anyone who refuses to trust him has long since been under the death sentence without knowing it. And why? Because of that person’s failure to believe in the one-of-a-kind Son of God when introduced to him”.

I was reading a book last night about Christians who have been tortured and killed for their faith. During the communist rule in Russia, one young woman spoke of her first Christmas. She had converted from communism to Christianity and for that was sentenced to work in a slave labour camp. In the labour camp she writes “At the age of nineteen I celebrated the birth of Christ for the first time. Never will I forget this wonderful day! We had to work the whole day long. But some of our brethren were able to go to the river nearby. There they broke the ice and prepared the place where, during the night-according to the Word of God-seven brethren and I were baptized. Oh how happy I am…” This teenage girl had no presents, no tree, no celebration food or drinks, no carols, no sales, no public holiday, no glaring lights decorating houses and was instead faced with trials we can’t fathom. Yet here she was celebrating Christmas with more joy than I ever have. In the cruel Russian winter after a long day of slave labour, at the risk of death if caught, she was baptized in icy cold water and she rejoiced! She truly understood the gift that is Jesus. If we got that, it wouldn’t be Christmas on the 25th of December, it would be Christmas everyday! Our homes would be open to those who spend Christmas alone and beyond Christmas. We would spend our time and money on those in need rather than only on ourselves. And more than all of that we would desperately want to tell anyone and everyone why the birth of Jesus is the single most precious gift of all. That on Jesus birthday, we are the ones who have received the gift!


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